Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

US Masters: Rory McIlroy's bogey on 18 takes gloss off solid first round at Augusta

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a bunker shot on the second hole during the first round of the 2014 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2014 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a bunker shot on the second hole during the first round of the 2014 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2014 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Tennis player Caroline Wozniacki watches her fiancee Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland, watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland hits his approach shot on the fiifth hole during the first round of the 2014 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2014 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland, watches his shot out of a bunker on the 18th hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the 2014 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2014 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, grimaces after his putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

World number nine Rory McIlroy showed a lot of character to battle to a one under par 71 after his first round at the 78th US Masters at Augusta.

Pre-tournament favourite McIlroy had been in danger of dropping a shot on the first after spinning his approach back off the green, but almost holed his pitch and was left with a tap-in to save par.

The 24-year-old also made par on the second after finding the same bunker as Scott, but holed from five feet for birdie on the third and also birdied the fifth.

McIlroy fell back to level par after a bogey on the eighth and three-putt bogey on the 12th, but birdied the 13th to get back under par.

A birdie on the par 5 15th brought McIlroy to -2 and he parred his next two.

A poor drive on 18 saw McIlroy find the sand and he couldn't recover to save par to leave a little bit of a bitter taste after a decent opening effort.

"I feel okay about today. I think the  golf course setup today was very difficult for a Thursday," he told Sky Sports.

"Some of the pin placements were pins that you would expect to see at the weekend. To shoot under par today I thought was a good effort.

"It got a little windier, and the wind was swirling all over the place. I think you've seen w lot of guys struggle on 12 today.

"I think you have to be really patient out there.

"I feel like I'm better prepared than I ever have been. I feel like that each and every year I come back because experience counts for so much on this golf course.

"I felt like I did a good job today in putting the ball in the right places for uphill putts or easy two-putts."

McIlroy is two shots behind the clubhouse leader, American Bill Haas.

Haas carded an opening 68 to finish four under par, to lie one shot ahead of Australian Adam Scott.

Defending champion Scott had been four under par after a flawless opening 11 holes, with one of his birdies coming on the par-four 10th where he sealed victory on the second hole of a play-off with Angel Cabrera last year.

He suffered a double bogey on the notorious 12th but managed to recover one shot on 14.

Graeme McDowell will be reasonably pleased with his opening innings carding an even par 72.

He parred his opening nine holes but bogeyed 10 and 11 before battling back.

McDowell's compatriot Darren Clarke was not having thing all his own way and was two over after 16 holes.

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